A Transylvanian in Silicon Valley
-- the play --

Description for the show in Bucharest at ARCUB, April 2005

      I loved the idea of bringing my show to Romania, but I was concerned. The show is written for an American audience, and many of the jokes and cultural idiosyncrasies may not make sense outside the American culture. But in the end, I decided that there was enough material that may appeal to a English-speaking Romanian audience, and, if nothing else, will showcase the approach taken to present to Americans the culture of my home country and to help revive the American Dream in an increasingly cynical and disillusioned American society.

      That approach includes presenting communist Romania under Ceausescu through the jokes in which Romanians took refuge during the tyranny. I reckoned that people had enough problems at work and at home, and would not want to come to the theatre to hear yet more problems. Therefore, rather than presenting the grim picture of life under the dictator, I decided to tell jokes Romanians were telling during that repressive time. When in San Francisco and in New York I mentioned Bula, the omnipresent character in Romanian jokes, I was delighted to hear audience members laugh before I finished the joke – I knew they were Romanians. I hope they will laugh again, and be inspired by my story.

-- Silvian Centiu, March 2005 Top

Descriere penru spectacolul din Bucuresti la ARCUB, aprilie 2005

      M-a incintat ideea sa aduc spectacolul meu in Romania, dar am avut temeri. Spectacolul a fost scris pentru o audienta americana, si multe din glumele si idiosincraziile culturale probabil nu vor fi de inteles in afara culturii americane. Dar pina la urma am decis ca spectacolul are sufficient de mult material care sa incinte o audienta romana vorbitoare de engleza si in orice caz va ilustra modul de abordare folosit pentru a prezenta celor din tara unde m-am stabilit cultura tarii mele de origine si pentru a ajuta la reinvigorarea “Visul American” intr-o societate americana din ce in ce mai cinica si mai deziluzionata.

      Acel mod de abordare include prezentarea Romaniei sub Ceausescu prin prisma bancurilor in care romanii s-au refugiat pe vremea tiraniei. Am considerat ca oamenii au sufficient de multe probleme la munca si acasa, si ca ca n-ar vrea sa vina la teatru sa auda inca mai multe probleme. De aceea, in loc de a prezenta imaginea deprimanta a vietii in timpul dictatorului, am decis sa relatez bancurile pe care romanii le spuneau in acele timpuri apasatoare. Cind, la San Francisco si la New York, l-am mentinat pe Bula, personajul nelispsit in bancurile romanesti, am avut placerea de a auzii spectatori rizind inainte de a termina gluma – am stiut ca aceea erau romani. Sper ca ei sa rida din nou si sa gaseasca in povestea mea inspiratie.

-- Silvian Centiu, Martie 2005 Top

Description of the play for the New York International Fringe Festival 2004

      The play starts by introducing the hardships of life in communist Romania. When writing the play, I was concerned that most people have enough problems at work and at home and do not want to come to a theatre and hear more problems. I think that this is one of the reasons why many people avoid literature, TV programming, and entertainment describing the misery of life in unfortunate countries.

      The solution in the play is to introduce these hardships by telling the jokes that Romanians came up with as a strategy for keeping sane (including a joke with "Bula", the omnipresent character in Romanian jokes). I was very concerned about whether such jokes will work with an American audience, but after the first few performances in San Francisco my fears were put to rest. Not only did the spectators laugh wholeheartedly at the jokes, but many left the theater speaking about the palatable presentation of the hardships.

      The play then describes a turning point in my life, when tragic events convinced me that the situation in Romania was no joke, but rather a war-like situation in which the slightest action against the government could cost me my life. One of the most difficult feats in the play was to transition from jokes to tragedy and then back to jokes. The latter was done by describing the fleeing from Romania after a failed assassination attempt and a philosophical change of heart about the main goal of a revolution.

      Once in Austria, thoroughly prepared plans went up in smoke with the realization of the anticipated but not fully grasped lack of understanding of the Western world. The play turns once again comical when describing the sending to Transylvania of a truck full of blood needed by injured revolutionaries.

      But the real comedy starts with the arrival in America. Whether it is the shock of rural Idaho, the misunderstandings of an impatient job search, the learning of the English language through unorthodox means, or the unfortunate lexical coincidences of the Romanian language, I was delighted to see the audience laughing until some literally fell off their chairs. It is this half of the play that challenged most my limited performing experience -- it took a while to get used to the long breaks I had to take to allow people to finish laughing.

      Some felt that the conclusion of the play had a dash of motivational speech. In response, I considered changing the ending, to make it more artsy or theatrical. But in the end I decided to leave almost intact, as I felt it represented the spirit of the play: among the humor, and the tragedy, and the triumph, a lot remains to be pondered -- and that is part of the adventure we call life.

-- Silvian Centiu, July 2004 Top

Original description of the play for the premiere in San Francisco

      It's not that others haven't found the time to assassinate repressive dictators or taken an evening to transport blood by moonlight to Transylvania or been shot at while escaping across the Romanian border or found the fortitude to trek through Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia while eating only chocolate or lived under a bridge in Vienna, surviving on 30 cents a day or decided to learn English by endlessly questioning defendants awaiting trial in courthouses.

      It's that Silvian Centiu - a Bay Area resident and USF grad - emerged from these ordeals with a comedy. A comedy called A Transylvanian in Silicon Valley that he'll be performing at the Actors Theatre SF beginning May. The show will run for eight weeks regardless of any additional hurdles that are placed in his path.

-- Bruce Pachtman, March 2004 Top

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